Quarter Life Crisis

The world according to Sven-S. Porst

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Just a few more observations on the iMusic experience, as witnessed in iTunes and on the iPod.

Playlists: One shortcoming of iTunes in my opinion is the way playlists are handled. Not only do they break easily but you can't arrange them yourself in the way you want. It's strictly, Library, Radio, Store, Remote, Smart, Manual playlists – all of them sorted alphabetically if necessary.

I can see that this not only makes it easier to program but also makes it easier to locate things – as the interface isn't spatial anyway the alphabet gives you a clue where to find things. However, once you have more than a handful of playlists this way of sorting them is a bit inconvenient. For example, I tend to have quite a few 'temporary' playlists with newly imported music or ideas for compilation CDs. Those come and go.

On the other hand, I want to archive some of the compilation CDs that I particularly like. And I want those out of the way. Not only to unclutter things, but also to have them in a non-moving location and make sure they don't get destroyed – after all, iTunes will delete playlists without confirmation or undo, which makes allowing other people to use my computer a scary prospect.

As iTunes doesn't (yet?!) offer folders for playlists, I went with the good old 'prefix technique', renaming my persistent playlists with a character coming late in the alphabet.  (The apple symbol) works nicely for this. Sadly, most other standard symbol characters are sorted to be before all the alphanumeric ones, so the choice isn't too big. Which is, in turn, why I am using ℵ now. Not only will those playlists appear after all the others but it's also got that mathematical meaning of coming after all integers.

That, in turn, reveals that despite being loaded with a wealth of characters from Asia, say, the iPod seemingly can't display hebrew. Hm, strange. And while I'm on the topic of the iPod – let me whine that 'Music Quiz' only works after every other synchronisation, the transfer of my address book is incomplete but has braindead 'Home' and 'Work' labels wasting the precious screen space – even causing numbers to sillily be displayed in way that the last two digits are flush right on a new line rather than putting the whole number on that line then.

A thing that I still haven't gotten used to is the speed of the scroll wheel. While I like the way it accelerates, I frequently find myself going to far. Perhaps that's also a limitation of having one long list for all the bands. The touch buttons seem to be a bit too sensitive for my taste as well. And obviously the fact that you don't have haptic feedback, makes it very hard to use the iPod without looking. This is made harder even further by the fact that once it finished playing an album it seems to return to the main menu – thus not allowing for a simple press of the 'Play' button to replay that album.

And then there's the screen. I have the impression that it flickers slightly. Is that normal? If so, that's bad engineering. If not – ;rest assured that I am so not keen on having to deal with Apple's utterly competent repair people again. Particularly with issues that aren't blatantly obvious, many of those tech people simply won't see them.

But let's go back to the topic of iTunes and playlists once more. One thing I am missing more and more is the ability to make playlists and simply store them in the library as an album. Not only would this come handy to represent 'best off' albums for bands without duplicating the files or cluttering the playlist section, it would also be a good way to store your own persistent playlists just as if they were a normal sampler CD.

iTunes artist list In the good news department: Apple seem to have finally included 'The ' in the list of band name prefixes in the German version of iTunes 4.2. Meaning that German users will also be able to enjoy their 'The' bands sorted where they expect them without having to hack them into place themselves. They still left a little bug in there, though – forgetting a space here and there causing 'Einstürzende Neubauten' to be sorted with the 'S' bands...

Einstürzende Neubauten are now available at the iTunes Music Store, by the way. Some publisher licenses a couple of German bands to them. Did I mention that I really want those little arrows they have next to a band's name in the music store everywhere in iTunes? That's pointing to my library of course, not to the store.

January 13, 2004, 23:44

Tagged as iTunes.


Comment by Bob Ippolito: User icon

I actually filed a bug in Apple’s radar about the lack of playlist folders :)

January 14, 2004, 0:06

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